The very title of the charity Music for the Deaf may seem a contradiction in terms.

But, according to Danny Lane, the Chief Executive Officer of the Yorkshire-based organisation, that’s only because there’s still a misconception that people with hearing loss can’t be musical.

As he explains: “There needs to be a lot more awareness of what deaf people can achieve. There needs to be more expectations that deaf people can access, play and enjoy music.” And this is what Music and the Deaf aims to do – break down the barriers that prevent young people from having music in their lives.

Danny himself is living proof that it’s more than possible for someone with profound hearing loss to become an accomplished musician and derive huge pleasure from listening to music. He was encouraged by enlightened parents to join his brother in playing a brass instrument while still at school. He also learned to play the piano and took a GCSE in music that led, ultimately, to him studying for a degree in French and music at Keele University in Staffordshire.

“I wouldn’t be able to communicate with confidence if it wasn’t for music,” he says. “Music is not just about listening or creating sound, it’s about sharing creative ideas, communicating with others and celebrating the achievement of performance.”

Today he stands at the helm of the ground-breaking musical charity that was founded by Huddersfield’s well-known deaf organist Dr Paul Whittaker OBE, who stepped down in 2015 after 27 years.

Paul Whittaker OBE, founder of Music and the deaf, goes freelance.

It’s Danny’s role to continue Paul’s pioneering work and he’s been busy doing just that by overseeing two major new projects.

The first seeks to showcase exactly what deaf musicians are capable of. To that end Music and the Deaf, which is now based in Halifax but works nationally, has formed a quartet of talented players, including Danny himself, who are staging performances around the UK. Known as the FORTE Ensemble, it has been funded by the Arts Council. Danny plays the piano alongside flautist Ruth Montgomery, trumpet and corner player Sean Chandler and violinist Eloise Garland, who also sings. The musicians are drawn from across the UK and have already played at venues in London, Gateshead and Liverpool. Their next (free) concert will be on Saturday, December 10, at 7pm in the Crossley Gallery of Dean Clough, Halifax, as part of a winter recital by Music for the Deaf’s Yorkshire Music Club, which works with young deaf musicians (visit for details). The concert will feature three pieces written by Danny, who lives in Almondbury, Huddersfield.

“We were not seeing deaf musicians performing,” says Danny, “so we thought it was time to do something about it. I knew all of the musicians but we didn’t really perform together until last year. This year we played at the House of Lords, which was amazing. Our concerts attract both deaf and hearing audiences.”

While there’s no reason why a hearing-assisted musician can’t achieve high musical standards, Danny says too few are being encouraged to think about becoming a professional and there are still prejudices at work. He knows of one young deaf musician who hid her disability in order to gain a place at a conservatoire. “She was struggling to get into a conservatoire so didn’t mention her deafness; they should be judged on their musical abilities only,” he added.

Danny Lane, CEO Music and the Deaf, and colleagues Ros Rowe, Will Hunt, Bill Sykes and Sheryl Gale - 1855 building, Eureka, Halifax.

While Danny wears what he describes as “an old-fashioned analogue hearing aid”, because digital hearing aids affect his ability to play music, he still needs the services of an interpreter in his day-to-day work. Sign language interpreter Sheryl Gale, who says she trained after realising the communication problems deaf people face, now travels with him as he tours schools and community groups around the country. Danny works directly with deaf youngsters as well as training teachers and running workshops. The organisation also has a network of freelance trainers. Much of his work is in mainstream schools, where there might be only one or two deaf children, and he will run workshops for both hearing and deaf children together.

The second major project undertaken by Music and the Deaf in the past year has been to join forces with Huddersfield University to look at ways in which rapidly advancing digital technology can be harnessed to help deaf people access music.

Frequalise, as it is known, worked with local schools and allowed hard of hearing children to experiment with computer software and music apps on tablets and phones.

“Technology is revolutionising the way we live,” says Danny, “and it’s so adaptable. There are high quality music apps, some of them free or low cost, that can be used. We have explored a range of different things. One thing we did find was that singing was quite popular. Even if someone is deaf they want to be like their pop idol and use a microphone.”

Danny Lane, CEO Music and the Deaf, 1855 building, Eureka, Halifax.

The project’s findings, which were shared at a seminar in Huddersfield last month, could, he says, change the way deaf children and young people are educated.

At the core of Danny’s work is the belief that there’s no reason why deaf children shouldn’t be given a musical education. As he says: “In some schools they are excluded from music lessons and I believe passionately that’s removing choice. It’s important that children don’t miss out on any subject.”

Music and the Deaf has made the UK a trailblazer but Danny says there are signs that other countries are starting to sit up and take notice: “We went to Australia last year on a tour and we found that there were no music programmes in schools for deaf young people but some were planning to set them up. We have had requests to go to America, Portugal and Canada next year, so there is a growing interest.”